Young visitors find North Idaho 'beautiful'

Chinese students visit Cd'A as part of nationwide tour

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Young visitors find North Idaho 'beautiful'

COEUR d'ALENE - They hiked Tubbs Hill and swam in the cold waters of a North Idaho lake.

They munched on Hudson's famous hamburgers and strolled the Mudgy & Millie Trail.

They even went shopping at Figpickels Toy Emporium.

So, what did they think of this place called Coeur d'Alene?

"It's very interesting, and beautiful," said Siyu Qian, a 12-year-old Chinese lad who goes by his American name, Jerry. "And the people, very friendly."

Young Jerry and 23 fellow campers, participating in the Northwest International Student Exchange program, spent the past week in the Lake City. The group learned about American culture, embarked on field trips around town and tried a few new sports.

Ages 10-12, the Chinese campers hail from the enormous city of Chengdu, and have been traveling across the Unites States this summer. They visited New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., before stopping in North Idaho for a 10-day stay.

Immersed in the small-town life, the campers are staying with local residents during their Coeur d'Alene layover.

"The host families are pretty nice for the kids," said Eric Yin, the group's chaperone and interpreter. "The kids have a happy time here. They have a new experience with the American family."

On Friday at the Coeur d'Alene Christian School - home base for the campers last week - instructor Sarah Williams conducted a fun exercise.

She would say an English word, and the campers would point to the corresponding picture up on the white board. The images were fairly random: Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., Tubbs Hill, a moose, a swingset.

Laughing and joking with one another, the youngsters practiced their improving English, and learned a little more about the lexicon of the United States.

"The style of teaching in America is really different from that in China," Williams said, explaining that American teachers encourage class participation and discussion, whereas Chinese schooling is more about memorization and repetition.

Brittany Klingaman, a teacher at Canfield Middle School, and coordinator James Dupey also helped out with Friday's lessons. The instructors said they learned some new things about Chinese customs and lifestyles.

Something that surprised Dupey, he said, was "how urban the population is."

At home in Chengdu, or in any other Chinese city, the kids don't have much contact with the natural world. In fact, Dupey said, one Chinese visitor claimed the nearest grass was a 30-minute walk from where he lived.

Coeur d'Alene's scenic environs were certainly a change of pace.

The campers loved wading in Lake Coeur d'Alene, the teachers said, despite the chilly waters. And they enjoyed playing classic American games like kickball and red rover.

Some activities didn't require a lesson, Williams said. The kids already knew how to play hangman, and they could easily sing "Jingle Bells."

"They do know a lot about American culture," she added.

On Fourth of July, many of the campers watched the parade and the fireworks. They toured the fire department last week, too.

After 10 days of culture, language and fun, the Chinese youngsters leave town today, bound for Los Angeles and the next leg of their long trip.

"They're a great group of kids," Williams said. "Lots of energy. I think it's a great experience for them. I think it benefits the city as well."

Ten-year-old Linze Yu (aka "Ron") offered his take on the Coeur d'Alene area, so different from his home in Chengdu.

"It's very, very beautiful," he said.

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